Unschooling Record Keeping
Karen M. Gibson
I am often asked how we can unschool and still keep records. Many people view unschooling and record keeping as being at odds with one another. Granted, quantifying your child's education is not really what most unschoolers want to do, but many unschoolers deal with state homeschool regulations that require some type of record keeping. It can be done. This is the system that I have devised for our own personal use. It's kind of an ongoing process, though, and I change it as I think of something new that I think might work better. Take what you need from my system, add some of your own ideas, and try it out. The biggest thing is to do this daily, or at least every couple of days. It is so very hard to remember back two or three weeks what each child did and when they did it!
First of all, I keep a daily log sheet. I've made up a form on my computer and I print 20 or 30 out at a time. These log sheets go into a small 3-ring notebook - one notebook for each child. The information on these log sheets include name of child, grade level, a space to fill in the date, and another space to fill in the day # of the school year. Then I have the following categories with spaces below each subject to fill in time spent on that subject and some detailed description (and they are divided up with 5 subject areas on one side of the log sheet and 6 on the back side):
||Science and Technology
|Religion and Philosophy
||Independent Living Skills
You can now view and save sample pages of my log sheets in .pdf format
You may not want to use all those subjects, or you may come up with additional ones that are important to you. There are times when certain subjects overlap and that does it make it a bit more difficult to figure out which category to log in.
I do try to keep track of approximate times that are spent on certain areas. I've not yet quite figured out why I am keeping track of that, but it does seem important to me. Maybe it won't further down the road. With some items it's pretty easy to figure times - a movie has the length on it, a book on cassette has the time on it, etc. Other things are a bit more difficult to log times, but in those cases I just figure an approximate time, usually to the nearest 1/2 hour.
With these log sheets preprinted and in a notebook it's fairly easy to just grab the notebook and log in whatever activity you see occurring. I keep track of movies watched, books read, books on tape listened to, any workbooks or other books used, board games played, computer games, online activity, letter writing, discussions had, questions asked and answered, research done, field trips, etc. I seem to include just about anything and everything that the children have done during the day. I even include their household chores, helping with meals, etc., under the Independent Living Skills section (which I figure out to be a daily average of 1/2 hour). You can be very detailed about these activities - noting pages read or workbook pages completed, grades (if you do grades) on particular papers - or you can note just general topics covered. It's up to you and your needs.
Then, at the end of the month, when it's time to turn in our monthly progress reports, I go through each subject area and list the different activities and things that were done by each child. I usually try to divide up the subject areas into their different subtopics, such as under the heading Social Sciences might come American History, World History, Civics, Current Events, Geography. By doing this I can tell when looking at each month's progress reports which areas were covered. I don't obsess if I see that one area is not being covered - these reports are only for my own satisfaction and that of the cover school. I also know, though, that some of my children will be college bound and it will be much easier to prepare transcripts or portfolios with good records.
The only other thing I do is keep a separate listing of all books read, videos watched, books on tape listened to, and "educational" TV programs watched. This listing includes the date it was completed, the book (or video, etc.) title, and the author. If you do nothing else for record keeping, I would strongly urge keeping a book list. You would be amazed, when you look over this list at the end of a school year, the wide variety of topics that your child covers just in reading books and watching videos.
Your children's ages will have a great deal of bearing on how much record keeping you find necessary. Since I have an eighth grader, I've begun to worry about what records will be necessary for college admittance. So I probably keep track of a bit more information than is necessary for my younger ones (I also have a fifth grader and a third grader), but I find it easier to use the same system for each of them. Plus, once I have the habit of entering daily (or close to daily!!) in the logbook, it's much easier to continue that habit. And do enlist your children's help in this - they know what they've done during the day and, with a little prodding and help, they can help you fill in those blanks if you've missed too many days of logbook recording!
Good luck! And please don't hesitate to ask if I can help in any other way.
Copyright March 1999